The plight of the poor and vulnerable doubled with memories of her childhood days occupied the contribution made by Social Development Minister, Delma Thomas, in her contribution to the 2013 Budget debate.
The Parliamentary Representative for St Andrew North-West touched on the plight of children within her constituency who are affected by lack of resources in her maiden address to Parliament as first timer.
Minister Thomas said that the lack of resources is simple inhibiting children some times from attending school as they are unable to afford a proper meal.
She recounted her own life experience to drive home the need for persons to care for each other in the society.
She recaptured a moment of her past which involved Speaker of the House of Representatives, Michael Pierre, as the then Principal of her primary school and the reason why she now takes her responsibility as a government minister and parliamentary representative in the service of people very seriously.
According to the senior government minister, she grew up as a child living with her grandmother for the first seven years of her life in what can be described as a financially challenging household.
She recalled her grandmother believing in the need for an education despite the fact that she suffered from lack of basic necessities including an exercise book.
“I recall my recent encounter with a man, a man who has affected my life in such a positive way, Mr. Speaker … Mr. Murray from Paraclete. I recalled 30 years ago when I didn’t have an exercise book or a pencil … it was a penmanship exercise book, Mr. Speaker and I recall my teacher saying to me, you need to get it or I will be flogged,” she said.
“Mr. Speaker I was very much afraid of flogging and coincidentally Mr. Speaker you was the principal at that time and you really liked to flog Mr. Speaker”, she told the house amidst an outbreak of laughter as the senior government minister recalled her fright of lashes and the tenacity in which Pierre (the Speaker) was known to flog students.
Unable to afford an exercise book, Minister Thomas told the House that she was so scared of licks from the then principal (Pierre) that her constant crying on her way to school led to a community member giving her the $1 needed to purchase the pencil and exercise book.
“I never forgot that, Mr. Speaker, I (will) remember that throughout my life”, she said.
The new MP for St. Andrew North-west told Parliament that shortly after assuming the new position she had an opportunity to return a favour to a senior citizen who was in need of assistance.
“…I always believe that one day I should be able or will be able to help that man, but not in my wildest dream, Mr. Speaker I would believe that he was the first to come to me on assuming office”, she said.
“He said to me I cannot work anymore and I want you to put me on the public assistance. I was so emotional Mr. Speaker that I said to him, I do not care about public assistance I can help you on my own. I will help you”, the senior government minister told the House.
It is with gestures like this in mind that the Social Development Minister is calling on communities throughout the country to bring back the love, care and community spirit that have faded from society in recent years.
Brushing aside the comments made by many in society regarding the conduct of some young people who believed that all young people want are handout, the MP who can be considered a youth herself, said the young people are interested in a hand-up and not a handout.
“Mr. Speaker as I go from village to village, as I visit the different schools some of the major concerns are our children who are unable to attend school because there is no uniform, our children are unable to attend to school because there’s no food, our children are unable to attend school because they cannot pay the busses”, she remarked.
The female government minister assured the youthful population of the country that help is on the way to them under the leadership of Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Keith Mitchell who has budgeted $24.1 million for the Ministry of Youth and Sports in the current financial package.
In addition, she said her Ministry of Social Development, which has been merged, with the Ministry of Housing will get $1.25 million for housing repairs and a further $5.1 million to provide subventions to various welfare organisations that serve the need of citizens.
Minister Thomas characterised the $1.2 Billion Budget presented last week Tuesday at the Grenada Trade Centre as a very realistic, viable and sustainable package that signals the start to build “The New Economy” as promised by NNP in its campaign manifesto for the February 19 general elections.